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AIDS in Africa

AIDS in Africa

According to UNAIDS 2017 statistics, globally, there are 36.7 million [30.8 million–42.9 million] people living with HIV in 2016. In the same year, 1.8 million [1.6 million–2.1 million] people became newly infected with HIV. Since the start of the epidemic, 76.1 million [65.2 million–88.0 million] people have become infected with HIV while 35.0 million [28.9 million–41.5 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses. As of June 2017, 20.9 million [18.4 million–21.7 million] people living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral therapy, up from 17.1 million [15.1 million–17.8 million] in 2015 and 7.7 million [6.8 million–8.0 million] in 2010.

Of the 19.4 million [17.8 million–21.1 million] people living with HIV in eastern and southern Africa, UNAIDS indicates that 12.5 million of these people are accessing Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) as of June 2017. Access of ART to millions of Africans has made an enormous difference by keeping millions of people alive and healthy despite evident challenges in the continent such as structural injustice, poverty, hunger, war, gender inequality and corruption.

Fr Michael Kelly SJa Jesuit in Zambia who is a renowned expert speaker and author on AIDS, writes: “The pandemic is in itself oppressive and dehumanising. Moreover, its spread is rooted in, and promoted by, human structures and systems that are themselves oppressive:

  • Stigma and discrimination;
  • Imbalances in gender understandings, relationships and power structures;
  • Economic imbalances;
  • Certain traditional/cultural perspectives and practices;
  • North-South relationships;
  • Globalization as practiced and extensive movement of people in search of security, work or improved life prospects.”

Where prevalence rates are high, AIDS pandemic constrains the development of individuals, families, communities and countries. According to Fr. Kelly, “AIDS exacerbates injustice. Injustice aggravates AIDS. One cannot be understood or tackled without the other.”

As a result of sustained global commitment, the fight against HIV & AIDS in Africa has recorded great achievements. And with the ambitious treatment target 90-90-90, it is hoped that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and that by 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression. According to the recently launched UNAIDS report dubbed Turning Point for Africa, ending the AIDS epidemic in Africa is within reach but with need for long term and predictable funding to sustain the already secured gains.